We open on Wednesday, but check out this great video from our first rehearsal last Monday!
I’m not a critic or reviewer. That has never been my goal in writing this blog. If you’re looking for some of the critics 2011 lists, I’ve found the one for The Georgia Straight, The Globe and Mail, Gay Vancouver and The Vancouver Courier.
Each year I wonder how to recognize the truly excellent work I see each year. I’ve tried a top ten list (2009). I’ve tried a top six list (2010). Neither felt quite right for what I wanted to say. So now I try again. Another year. Another format. Let’s see if I can’t take some inspiration for the annual “Best of Vancouver” and make my own “Best of Vancouver Theatre” list.
Best Show that Everyone Agrees is the Best – Ride the Cyclone (Atomic Vaudeville)
I am a stingy standing ovation giver, but this show had me on my feet before the curtain call lights even came up. Why is this little show from Victoria topping critics list across the country? Biting humor. Vivid characters. Song and dance numbers so varied in tone/style/content that you never know where you’ll be next. The best “turn your cell phones off” speech ever. EVER. A cast that takes the quirky and makes it both heart-breaking and hilarious, all the while singing and dancing. The show uses low-tech/budget tricks to great result and the indie feel is definitely part of its charm. I went into this show having been told that it was fantastic, but I remember saying to myself, “Okay. Now you know it might not be everything you’ve been told it is. Let go of your expectations.” And the best part was that it exceeded every one of those expectations.
The Best “Theatrical Experience” - La Marea (Boca del Lupo with Mariano Pensotti for the PuSh Festival)
Walking into the zero-block of water street for that week in January was like nothing else I have experienced in going to the theatre. Both ends of the busy street closed down. People everywhere. Giant flood lights light the street and then like the flip of a breaker the flood lights go out and music begins, theatre lights pop on to unexpected places, and projected surtitles appear. Each of the nine scenes were only 10 minutes long, but you had to walk the whole block to see them, and depending which end of the street you started at you had a different experience. I’m sure it was a logistical challenge (kudos to the stage management/production management team for pulling it off!) but the effect was so stunning I went back down to the block two more nights just to watch people interact with the piece. My favourite thing was seeing people who had no idea that their favourite restaurant’s patio was now playing home to a play and that by eating there they had inadvertently become extras. Or people who just happened to be out walking in the Gastown neighbourhood asking a volunteer what exactly was going on and deciding to stay and see what all the fuss was. Most of the nights the block was wall-to-wall people and when it threatened to rain they were ready – volunteers were standing by handing out branded umbrellas. Free. Outdoors. Huge. La Marea redefined the possibilities for me.
Honorable Mention – Party This Weekend (The House Party Collective) – Was it a show or a house party? It was really a bit of both. With four intertwining story lines, a house and its yard for the set, and lots of audience interaction it was a fantastic experience!
Best Show I Still Can’t Categorize - Circa (Circa at PuSh Festival)
This wasn’t my first time seeing Circa perform as a part of the PuSh festival, but as always they defy being easily labelled. The Australian company defines themselves as “circus that moves the heart and soul” but their performance lends itself to comparisons to both theatre and dance. No matter what you call it though, it elicited an audible response from myself and from others in the audience as the performers flung themselves through the air at each other or moved a single muscle so specifically that it could be noticed from the back of the theatre. It was an absolutely stunning night.
Honorable Mention – Dress Me Up In Your Love – Theatre Replacement – Part story-telling, part fashion show, part music, I found this show at times hilarious, at times moving and I never need to see Andrew McNee in a tight dress again.
The Best Piece of Dance for Sitting on the Edge of Your Seat - Emergence (Crystal Pite for the National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary Tour)
My dance knowledge is really very limited, but I take whatever opportunity I can to attend dance. Crystal Pite’s Emergence, the final of four pieces on the National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary Tour had me on the edge of my seat the moment it started. Intricate. Precise. Stunning. It was one of those pieces where I didn’t want to blink because I was afraid that I would miss something amazing.
Honorable Mention – Moth (Donald Sales for Ballet BC‘s 25th Anniversary) – A bare bulb dangling on stage. Sign Language and Silent Screams. This ballet exploration of grief was breath-taking.
Best of the Fringe Fest - Little Orange Man (Snafu Dance Theatre)
The Fringe is a funny festival in the sense that it really is a free for all. Anyone can do a show. You can end up seeing ANYTHING on stage. But when Ingrid walked on stage and began using a piece of bread to tell us a story, I wasn’t prepared for how touching this show would be. Yes, it had celery sticks as characters and involved Ingrid climbing out of a giant suitcase. It had some of the funnest low-tech magic that I’ve seen on stage in a while, and its not every day that you watch an audience hold tiny shoes in the air and conjure up small children. The show left me feeling wistful for childhood and delighted to see what Ingrid will think up next.
Honorable Mention – Peter ‘n’ Chris and the Mystery of the Hungry Heart Hotel (Peter ‘n’ Chris) – C’mon….they have flashy jackets, can do a slow motion car crash, and are funny. What more do you need from your Fringe experience?
Best Show for An Audience of 15 or Less - Tape (Alley Theatre)
Crammed into a small room at the Waldorf Hotel with 11 other audience members plus this cast of three, being in the room as they fought was an exhilarating experience. It’s what site-specific theatre does when at it’s best – puts you right there with the characters, knowing that there is no other place in which this story would have as much impact.
Honorable Mention – Whale – Kyle Jespersen – In the intimate Anderson Street Space, writer and performer Kyle Jespersen took us door-to-door selling Bibles and waiting for a sign. I believe it was a show in progress and the note I wrote to myself that night after the show was “I can’t wait to see what this turns into.”
Best ReInvention of Genre - Community Dinner (Rumble Productions with Boca del Lupo, Electric Company Theatre, Neworld Theatre & MOSAIC)
This was not like any “dinner theatre” you have ever been to before, I would guarantee it. The four companies who share the Progress Lab space teamed up with MOSAIC – an organization that seeks to empower recent immigrants – and for three months prior to the show teams comprised of professional actors and newcomers to Canada met up, learned how to prepare various ethnic recipes, and created a short piece of theatre connected to the recipe. Each of the four pieces was as diverse as the companies they came from, and at the end of the night the cast and audience sat down to a meal of the food that had been prepared in front of them.
Honorable Mention – Visions of Vancouver – Pi Theatre - Performed for a live audience these radio plays were also recorded for FREE release as podcasts. With a simple staging and at times with script in hand, these four actors performed in a way that worked live and that works in an audio-only medium.
Best Show to Make Me Want New Toys - Wicked (Broadway Across Canada)
I don’t know how, as a person who cares about the technical side of theatre at all, it is possible to see a show like Wicked and NOT want to play with all their toys. The choreography of the set pieces alone was stunning and the costumes were so intricate. The sheer calibre and artistry of all involved made it such a visual feast to go along with such a well loved musical. The whole experience was so lovely. I enjoy seeing the big broadway shows when they come to town, but this one topped many of them for being so on the ball technically.
Honorable Mention – Penny Plain – Ronnie Burkett at the Cultch – With 24 custom made marionnettes, I don’t think you can see one of Ronnie’s shows and not want to play with them, or at the very least examine the intricate strings that allow the performer to make even a pinky finger move.
Best Show to Give Multiple Standing Ovations – Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Glass City Theatre)
As someone who rarely gives a standing ovation, it is even more rare for me to do so more than once for the same production. Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train got two or three from me during its three week run. It was a heart-breaking ride that moved me over and over again as I saw it and that continues to challenge my opinions.
Other Year In Review Posts: Hard Work
What I Saw
Last year when I wrote about all the shows I had seen, I set forth a two part goal. I wanted to achieve balance in my hobbies and I wanted to end the year with no regrets in regards to my theatre viewing.
Now here we are at the end of the year and even though I saw more shows than ever I’d say I did do better in finding balance. Part of the reason that makes sense is that instead of stage managing all year I spent 5 months working for the Vancouver Fringe. For the most part it was a day job which left my evenings free to see some awesome theatre.
But I do have a handful of shows that I regret not seeing. I missed the work of the guys at Main Street Theatre for the second year in a row. I missed Death of a Salesman at the Playhouse. I didn’t go see Ride the Cyclone more than once. I didn’t see Wonderheads during the Fringe (but lucky for me they won an award and will be at the Cultch next year!). I missed Wicked Shorts.
For the first time in a couple of years, my list is entirely West Coast – I didn’t make it out to Edmonton or Toronto this year, which I regret, but I’m looking forward to more travel in the coming year – including my first ever trip to Europe!
Here they are – the 155 performances I attended in 2011, in something close to chronological order.
- Wee Tube (Theatre Replacement)
- La Marea (Boca Del Lupo/PuSh Festival/Mariano Pensotti)
- The Pavillion (Osimous Theatre/Firehall Theatre)
- Iqualit (Berlin/PuSh Festival)
- Circa (Circa/UBC/PuSh Festival)
- 100% Vancouver (PuSh Festival/Rimini Protokoll/Theatre Replacement)
- Tuesdays With Morrie (Gallery 7 Theatre)
- Dead Man’s Cell Phone (UBC)
- Floating (Hugh Hughes/Arts Club/PuSh Festival)
- Bonanza (Berlin/PuSh Festival)
- Whale (Boca del Lupo/Kyle Jesperson)
- Gloria’s Cause (Club PuSh/Donya Hansen)
- City of Dreams (Roundhouse/PuSh Festival/Peter Reder)
- My Name is Asher Lev (Pacific Theatre)
- Hard Core Logo: Live (November Theatre/Touchstone Theatre/Theatre Network/PuSh Festival)
- Avenue Q (Touring Broadway Production)
- August: Osage County (Arts Club)
- Peter Panties (The Cultch/PuSh Festival/Leaky Heaven/Neworld)
- Clemenzia di Tito (Vancouver Opera)
- Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Blackbird/Arts Club)
- Nocturne (20 Something Theatre)
- The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Fighting Chance Productions)
- Swimmy, Frederick & Inch by Inch (Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia)
- Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Glass City Theatre)
- Quiet in the Land (Gallery 7)
- Cinderella (Vancouver Opera in Schools)
- Wild Honey (UBC)
- Cinderella (Exit 22 at Capilano University)
- Chairs (Itsazoo)
- The Philanderer (Arts Club)
- 1984 (Virtual Stage/Studio 58 at the Cultch)
- Evelyn Strange (StairCaseXI)
- The Last 15 Seconds (MT Space Theatre/Firehall Arts Centre)
- Under The Influence Cabaret (20 Something)
- The Bacche (TWU)
- Another Home Invasion (Arts Club/Tarragon)
- Jake’s Gift (PT/Juno Productions)
- The Forbidden Phoenix (Gateway Theatre)
- Rosmershom (United Players)
- Letters from a Soldier; My Name is Aslam (Stones Throw Productions)
- The Trespassers (Vancouver Playhouse/Belfry)
- Ballet BC’s 25th Anniversary (Ballet BC)
- Scared Scriptless (Vancouver Theatresports League)
- Dress Me Up In Your Love (Theatre Replacement)
- The Graduate (Arts Club)
- The Wiz (Fighting Chance)
- My Funny Valentine (Zee Zee Theatre)
- Tape (Alley Theatre)
- Side Show (Pacific Theatre)
- Mambo Italiano (Firehall/WCT)
- Prodigals (20-Something Theatre)
- Love/Stories (Kineticism)
- Beautiful Problems (Radix Theatre)
- The Great Divorce (Pacific Theatre)
- Eurydice (Secretly Women)
- Macbeth: Nacht Shakespeare (Theatre Conspiracy)
- Hairspray (Arts Club theatre)
- What we leave behind (Lamondance)
- Community Dinner (Rumble Productions)
- Wicked (Broadway Across Canada)
- A guide to Mourning (Genus/Enlightenment Theatre)
- Merchant of Venice (Bard)
- A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline (Arts Club)
- BridgeMix (Itsazoo)
- Matchmaker (Gallery 7)
- Verona Project (Stones Throw)
- Bash: Latter Day Plays (Hardlines Theatre)
- Bye Bye Birdie (TUTS Vancouver)
- The Casino/The Disappearing (Stones Throw)
- Party This Weekend (The House Party Collective)
- Project X (Faust) (Leaky Heaven Circus)
- Other Side Through You (Cat Main)
- Visitors (Walking Fish 2011)
- At First I Thought It Was (Walking Fish 2011)
- Armed (Walking Fish 2011)
- The Gas Heart (Gas heart Theatre)
- Homecoming King
- Chairs (Itsazoo) (The revised version)
- My Pregnant Brother (Freestanding Productins)
- Compassion for Killers (Whirlwind Productions)
- Anything Goes (TUTS Vancouver)
- Troika and The Troubles (Some of the New Bees/Resounding Scream)
- Flop! A one man musical (New Hands Theatre)
- Bare: a pop opera (Fighting Chance)
- When I Was (Les Petite Taquines)
- Richard III (Bard on the Beach)
- Kunst Rock (Die Roten Punkte/The Cultch)
- Sea of Sand (The Only Animal)
- As You Like It (Bard on the Beach)
- Cativo (Hardline Productions)
- Tough (20-Something Theatre)
- The Selkie Wife
- Trouble in Tahiti (VanCoCo)
- Archy & Mehitable
- Oh That Wily Snake!
- The Sparrow and the Mouse
- Phone Whore
- Screaming Silently
- This is Cancer
- Jesus In Montana
- Short & Sweet
- The Progressive Polygamists
- The Animal Show
- Stay Away from my Boat, @$$hole (ItsaZoo/Vancouver Fringe)
- The Razzle Tassel Tease Show
- Lost in Place
- Duck Off
- The Mystery of the Hungry Heart Hotel (Peter ‘n’ Chris/Vancouver Fringe)
- Smile (Awkward Stage Productions/Vancouver Fringe)
- Tinfoil Dinosaur
- The Other Side
- Houdini’s Last Escape (Monster Theatre/Vancouver Fringe)
- Night of the B Movie
- The Devil & Billy Markham
- Giant Invisible Robot
- Sally Lives Here
- Mr. Kinski’s Cabaret of Bullshit (Vancouver Fringe)
- Acrobatic Daredevils
- Oh My God (Delinquent Theatre/Vancouver Fringe)
- Fortunate Son
- Willow’s Walk: Ripples in Time
- Arnie the Carnie’s House of Fun
- Next To Normal (Arts Club Theatre)
- Tuesdays with Morrie (Gallery 7 at Pacific Theatre) (The Remount)
- National Ballet of Canada’s 60th Anniversary Tour (National Ballet/Ballet BC)
- Little Orange Man (Snafu Dance Theatre/Vancouver Fringe)
- The Light in the Piazza (Patrick Street Productions)
- Circle Mirror Transformation (Arts Club Theatre)
- Ride the Cyclone (Atomic Vaudville)
- True Love Lies (Touchstone Theatre at the Cultch)
- A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum (Fighting Chance Productions)
- Visions of Vancouver (Pi Theatre)
- Love Lies Bleeding (Alberta Ballet)
- West Side Story (Vancouver Opera)
- Romeo and Juliet (TWU)
- 50 Words (Mitch & Murray Equity Coop)
- Falling in Time (Screaming Weenie)
- Vimy (Firehall Arts Centre)
- The Outsiders (Gallery 7 Theatre)
- Penny Plain (Ronnie Burkett)
- Mary’s Wedding (Gateway)
- Blood Brothers (Arts Club)
- The Patron Saint of Stanley Park (Arts Club Theatre)
- A Christmas Carol (Pacific Theatre)
- La Cage aux Folles (Playhouse Theatre)
- Hotel Bethlehem (Ruby Slippers Theatre)
- Sound of Music (Gateway Theatre)
- Christmas Carol Project (Brass Monkey Productions at the Cultch)
- The Gift Horse (Caravan Farm Theatre)
- Christmas Presence (Pacific Theatre)
I am already excited about what is to come in 2012. My first booking of the year is for Blackbird Theatre’s Waiting for Godot.
The Olympics may have ended last night (or early this morning depending on which party you were at), but the Paralympics are less than two weeks away and the Cultural Olympiad is still out in full force. Add to that, all the companies that were reluctant to run shows during the Olympics have shows opening soon. What that leaves is one very busy month of theatre. These are the three that top my list as “must sees” for March.
1. Hive 3 (Presented by Theatre Conspiracy, The Only Animal, Radix Theatre, The Electric Company, Boca Del Lupo, Rumble Productions, Theatre Replacement, neworld theatre, leaky heaven circus, theatre skam, pi theatre & Felix Culpa)
Hive (in all its incarnations) has been one of those events that you have to attend to really understand. It is hard to put into words. It is 12 plays by 12 companies in one giant warehouse. It is a giant party. It is concerts by bands from across the country. It is impossible to take it all in on a single night – the 12 plays occurs simultaneously throughout the warehouse – each in a different corner for a different sized audience (usually ranging from 1 – 15). Most of these shows are devised specifically for this event. It’s the kind of night out that fits with the conversations that took place at the #Newplay Devised Work Convening.
Author’s note: I am working with pi theatre on this project as an ASM. But even if I weren’t taking part in it, I would still be telling you to go see it. It’s that kind of event.
2. Spine (Presented by Realwheels)
From the SFU Woodwards website:
While traveling the universe of avatars, inhabiting online realities and identities, a man discovers the intriguing possibility of reinventing his physical body through a blend of ambitious, cutting-edge technologies and ethically questionable experiments. It’s a thrilling hunt for the body that will best define us, in a world where the virtual can be more real than the real itself.
Written by Kevin Kerr (Unity:1918, Skydive, & Studies in Motion) & directed by Bob Frazer.
3. Paradise Garden (Presented by The Arts Club)
March 11–April 11, 2010 | Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage
Local boy Day, a free spirit, lives next door to worldly Layla, a career-driven intellectual. The two have nothing in common. Or do they? Over time these divergent souls come to understand each other in a way neither thought possible. A contemporary tale of romance and cultural divides so engaging it will change the way you see the girl (or boy) next door!
Written by Lucia Frangione (Holy Mo, Espresso, Cariboo Magi & more), this play is receiving its world premiere as a part of the Cultural Olympiad. Lucia’s writing is smart, honest, funny & often heart-wrenching. My friends and I are already planning a group outing to see this show.
Did I miss any shows that top your list for March? Let me know in the comments.
November. Not only did I open The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe at PT & then spend an additional week prepping the understudies and opening their version of the show for school matinees. I also managed to see 10 shows.
Here’s the list:
- Master Builder (UBC)
- Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour DreamCoat (Footlights Theatre Company)
- The Big League (Carousel Theatre)
- The Project (Solo Collective)
- Moulin Rouge: the Ballet (Royal Canadian Ballet)
- These Walls Are Paper Thin (Critical Mask & Mind of a Snail)
- The Vertical Hour (United Players)
- King Arthurs Kitchen (Axis Theatre)
- Demon Voice (Touchstone Theatre)
- After The Quake (Pi Theatre/Rumble Productions)
The only ones that are still playing are After the Quake (which is unfortunately for all of you sold out for the rest of its run. I hope you all have caught it as it is one of the best things I’ve seen all year!) & The Vertical Hour at United Players which is a really enjoyable evening of theatre.
It’s nearly the end of November, and only now am I finding time to sit down and write out my theatrical picks for the month. Sadly some great shows have already closed (ie: The Project presented by Solo Collective), but there are still lots of shows playing now or opening in the next week that are worth checking out.
Here’s my list of shows to see in November:
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe at Pacific Theatre.
Yes, I’m stage managing this show (and its the reason that this list is so late coming!), but it is quite honestly one of the funnest shows I’ve worked on in a while. And there’s nothing like a little Narnian magic to kick off the holiday season.
Demon Voice at Touchstone Theatre
It opened tonight, but I’ve been hearing nothing but great things about the performances from friends who attended previews earlier this week. Written by Shawn MacDonald who also penned Prodigal Son, this show is on my personal “must see” list.
After the Quake presented by Rumble Productions & Pi Theatre
With one giant frog, a stellar cast & design team, After the Quake is a show I have been looking forward to with months. It is based on the noval after the quake by Haruki Murakami.
The Wrecking Ball Cabaret
Vancouver held its first Wrecking Ball last fall in response to the federal government’s treatment of the arts, and now its back! Highly political, very funny, & featuring some of Vancouver’s most talented artists, it’s a great night of solidarity for the arts & theatre communities.
Also, if you have never seen a production of The Laramie Project, don’t miss the production at UBC right now.